Innovations for Poverty Action was born in 2002 when Dean Karlan founded Development Innovations, a non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between academia and development policy in practice. Dean’s graduate school advisors, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Sendhil Mullainathan agreed to join him on the board of the new organization, along with Ray Fisman, a professor from Columbia. In 2003, Banerjee, Duflo and Mullainathan started MIT’s Poverty Action Lab (now the Abdul Lateef Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL), a center at MIT and network of like-minded researchers from around the world. From the beginning the two organizations were set to work closely, and continue to promote a shared vision to this day. Development Innovations officially changed to Innovations for Poverty Action around the same time in order to show the closely-linked vision of the two organizations.
Each year since then IPA has managed to at least double in size to approximately $25 million in income in 2010. We now have projects in over 40 countries and approximately 500 staff.
While in some countries we do run anti-poverty programs directly, the vast majority of our work around the world is collaborative. We partner with other implementing organizations—mostly local and international nonprofits, but also governments and private firms—and design and run program evaluations to find out what works and what doesn’t, and then we let the world know.
Today over 100 researchers — many professors at some of the leading institutions of higher education in the world — turn to us to implement and manage their projects. For our researchers and our donors, the greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that the value of our work will continue to increase many times over through more effective anti-poverty programs.